DeSantis’ courtship of island voters and Puerto Rican-Americans is complicated by his close relationship with President Donald Trump, whose response to Maria has drawn mixed reviews. Footage of Trump tossing paper towels to island residents like basketballs after the storm enraged some Puerto Rican leaders.
More than seven in 10 Puerto Rican Floridians hold a negative view of Trump.
Democrats have hoped that might drive temporary Florida residents, pushed out by Maria, to register and vote for Democratic candidates. So far there is little evidence of it.
On Friday, Democrats pounced on DeSantis’ visit to the U.S. territory as disingenuous.
“During Puerto Rico’s darkest hour, and in the eleven months since the hurricane, Ron DeSantis has turned his back on the island in order to help cover up Donald Trump’s horrific neglect,” said Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, in a statement. “And just last week, DeSantis said he would do nothing as governor to help the thousands of Puerto Ricans in Florida who are on the verge of losing their housing because it is a ‘federal responsibility.’ “
Mercado was referencing a WESH interview in which DeSantis was asked if the state should provide shelter for displaced Puerto Rican residents.
DeSantis said he would look to the federal government to help those people.
“Part of the reason why I think it’s important to have a good relationship with the president is because Florida interacts with the federal government on a lot of things,” DeSantis said.